Devan Mercer (senior, sociology) isn’t the first female cadet battalion commander in Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, but she is the first in this decade.
Her appointment coincides with movements by the U.S. Army to open more combat roles to women.
Mercer, whose grandfather was also in the Navy, has been a member of IUP ROTC for four years.
“I always wanted to be in the Army, and they offered me a scholarship so I took it,” she said.
ROTC members are cadets for their first three years of membership, Mercer said. During senior year, department chairman Lt. Col. David Meyer assigns them to different positions.
These positions are reassigned each semester, so Mercer will remain in her position until graduation.
“Basically, I’m in charge of all four grades,” she said.
Her responsibilities include implementing the training Meyer wants ROTC members to go through.
“It was a surprise,” she said of her promotion.
While the position will give her an advantage over her peers in terms of experience, it isn’t necessarily something she can put on a resume.
However, she said it may show that she is prepared for the responsibility of bigger positions.
Her options will soon include about 33,000 positions previously closed to women because they were related to direct ground combat, according to a press release from the U.S. Army. The press release said these positions are expected to be open by April.
“I’m glad it’s finally happening,” Meyer said of the changes.
Mercer said it was good to see more opportunities for women in the military but didn’t know if she would try to take advantage of any of them herself.
“I’ll go wherever they tell me,” she said.
Her gender hasn’t particularly affected her as cadet battalion commander. She said her fellow ROTC members are “open” to female leaders.
“It’s not, like, strange to them to have a female in charge,” she said.
She added that it is good for them to learn to be that way at this level.
After she graduates, she will go on to a position as a quartermaster second lieutenant.
Quartermasters are responsible for ensuring that equipment and supplies are available and functional when needed for missions, according to Military.com.
Quartermaster lieutenants are also responsible for coordinating quartermaster operations and overseeing the employment of quartermaster soldiers.
“I’ll get the training for [quartermaster lieutenant] whenever I graduate,” she said.
As for what she’ll go on to do after that, she hasn’t decided yet.
“I’m not going to close any doors before I get there,” she said. “I want to wait and see how I like my job.”